Saturday, September 26, 2009

Making Choices

I like to read and I read a lot - both fiction and non-fiction. On a recent 'milestone' birthday, I had the somewhat disquieting thought that no matter how much and how quickly I read, I would never have the time to read everything on my list. I began to ponder the idea that if my time is finite and the number of books almost non-finite, how might I best sort through the many choices of what to read.
I have asked friends, librarians, educators, and life guides, but there seems to be no methodology, no stratagem, no plan by which I could optimize both time and choice. For everyone I asked, there seemed to be a different approach - best seller lists, subject matter specificity for hobbyists, favorite authors and so forth. My tastes are so wide and varied that none of these methods would help.
My current sources are many. Frequently, one book leads to another - either through bibliographies, author's style, or relevant themes. Serendipity plays a large role when passing through the stacks at my local library or when on-line in the library's virtual card catalog. Books related to the places I travel frequently adorn my bedside table, as do guides and references for the natural world around me. Book reviews are a favorite source for ideas and choices, but my manila folder of printouts and clippings is bulging at the seams.
Ultimately, a path emerges, though to ascribe a route or destination would be difficult. It's not a bad dilemma, but I do continue to value my limited time and try to make the most of the endless resources around me. I guess I'm lucky to have so many options.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Banish Uncertainty

Banish uncertainty.
Affirm strength.
Hold resolve.
Expect death.

Make your stand today. On this spot. On this day. Make your actions count; do not falter in your determination to fulfill your destiny. Don't follow the destiny outlined in some mystical book: create your own.

Your resolve to tread the path of life is your best asset. Without it, you die. Death is unavoidable, but let it not be from loss of will but because your time is over. As long as you can keep going, use your imagination to cope with the travails of life. Overcome your obstacles and realize what you envision.

You will know unexpected happiness. You will know the sorrow of seeing what is dearest to you cut down before your eyes. Accept that. That is the nature of human existence and you have no time to buffer this fact with fairy tales and illogical explanations.

Each day, your life grows shorter by twenty-four hours. The time to make achievements becomes more precious. You must fulfill everything you want in life and then release your will upon the moment of death. Your life is a creation that dies when you die. Release it, give up your individuality, and in so doing, finally merge completely with the Tao.

Until that moment, create the poetry of your life with toughness and determination.
- 365 Tao / Daily Meditations - Deng Ming-Dao

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Being Busy - Part III

Some final thoughts.

Change may be inevitable, but the pace of change has dramatically accelerated. We produce more labor saving devices, but multiply the number of those devices we purchase and utilize. The work week is shorter than that of our ancestors, but recent trends in the United States show a lengthening of hours spent on the job. Holidays and their incumbent expectations increase our stress and anxiety, while we have less time to enjoy them and the people for whom we care. Do we honor longstanding traditions or cut corners to save time and preserve our sanity?

I once figured out that a two day weekend leaves us wanting when Monday arrives. We need time to do the chores and errands we can’t do during the week, we need time to play and have fun – visit family and friends, and we need time to unwind and relax. If my theory is correct, when Monday rolls around, one or two of the above activities weren’t properly addressed and we begin the new work week already ‘in the hole’.

Euphemistically, we may tell others that we are busy as an excuse or as a way to avoid responsibilities. Maybe it’s a badge of perceived importance – maybe it’s just a way out. Mainly, it seems that being busy has become one of the mainstays of our existence. I believe that it is worth considering, so that we stay healthy and make the most of our limited time.

Being Busy - Part II

Busy as a beaver - busy as a bee ... all pretty productive, all pretty positive. Being busy isn't a bad thing, as long as we have some control and are not wholly run by being busy. Are you more productive when you have a lot on your plate? Are you better able to prioritize when you can sort through multiple tasks, so that you do the most important ones first?

How we got so busy remains the crux of my concern and here are a few more possible reasons as to why we are:

  • Two income families – change in roles and responsibilities - fragmentation
  • Activities for children - soccer moms, after school activities, college preparations, helicopter parents
  • Blue Laws relaxed - Sunday openings, 24 x 7 business and services, constant traffic on roads and highways, extended work day, play day, chores and activities day
  • More data / less information – television crawl lines, sports scores, weather, sports, talking heads, and background slides, web content, magazines, CATV, satellite radio, telemarketers, iPODs, iPHONES, snail mail, e-mail, text messages, Twitter, etc.
  • Workers don't do what they used to do - full vs. self serve gas station, post office, trash collection, banking, etc. - we do more ourselves
  • Office Meetings - what do we accomplish, how much productive time is usurped, additional tasks are assigned in meetings, work not done while at a meeting needs to be completed, scheduling meetings for longer than necessary, longer meetings drain energy, if we are less energized and/or efiicient, we need to work longer or harder to make up for lost productivity

Part III - the conclusion follows.

Being Busy - Part I

Pretty much everyone I talk to these days tells me that they're busy - too busy and they're frazzled or burnt out, busy enough and they're fully engaged, not busy enough and they're just bored. After recently returning from a vacation where I was just busy enough, I began to wonder why so many of us are so busy, feel so busy, act so busy. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons why I think we might be feeling this way:

  • Being busy is 'good' - there is a perception that being busy equates to being fulfilled, active, whole, and purposeful and if I'm busier than you, then I must be (more) fulfilled

  • Drive times – greater distances, longer commutes, distance from family, friends, services, changes in neighborhoods and shopping patterns

  • We multi-task constantly - how often do we just sit and watch TV, or read, or chat with friends - today's model seems to demonstrate that we do more than one thing at a time, making us busier than if we were just doing one thing - see my 'Sheep Miles' posting

  • Technology has outstripped our genetic/evolutionary abilities to manage/maintain/adapt to change/new inputs/data ... texting, e-mails, voicemails, cell phones, blackberries, call waiting – multiple communications and see-saw electronic methodologies vs. completing thoughts and ideas with real time conversation

  • Still only 24 hours in a day - time hasn't increased with the options available

  • We are/stay busy to fill a void - are we afraid of seeing what there is - what life is like, if we slow down?

  • We fill more hours with more activties - leaf blowing vs. leaf raking ... where does the saved time go?

  • Work boundaries are extended – people work longer hours, take laptops and cell phones on vacation – try to outdo one another or keep up with the worker in the next cubicle

Enough for now - take a deep breath, unwind, wait for Part II.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Three Quotes

"...we do not stop playing because we get old - we get old because we stop playing"
- Unknown

"...unless there is dark, you cannot see the stars"
- Unknown

"...only when the tide goes out do you find out who is not wearing a bathing suit"
- Warren Buffett

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Sound Of Silence

I recently spent two weeks with my family in Downeast Maine and woke before dawn one morning to the sound of nothing - no clocks - no refrigerator compressor - no computer fan - no cars - no planes - in short, 'dead silence'. As I lay in bed listening to virtually nothing, I began to wonder about what we hear when we hear nothing - do we hear our body mechanisms running - do we tune in to our inner rhythms - or, do we try to fill in the silence, because it might be too scary to listen only to ourselves.

Several days after returning home, I happened to see two teenage girls walking together, each independently listening to her own headphones on her own iPOD. I wondered why they were together, as each girl had no apparent connection to the other, except in walking side by side. I wondered if they had consciously decided not to communicate or maybe that was the message - they had nothing to say to one another.

I'm not the first to wonder in which direction the art of conversation might be headed. But, in a world of 140 character limits, text abbreviations, and emoticons, maybe the sound of silence is the coming thing.